China's Wanda Finds Buyer for $1.2B Beverly Hills Real Estate Development

A rendering of Wanda's 15-story One Beverly Hills complex, a mix of hotel and residential units

The disposal of the coveted luxury project comes as a particularly stinging chapter in Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin's ongoing transformation from empire builder to desperate seller.

Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin is finally letting go of his prized real estate holding in Los Angeles, the $1.2 billion luxury development site known as One Beverly Hills.

The tycoon's Beijing-based conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group has entered into a deal to sell control of the project to Canadian developer Triple Five Group, a source with knowledge of the situation tells The Hollywood Reporter.

Real estate news source CoStar reports that the transaction is scheduled to close next month. The sale price and whether Wanda might retain a minority stake in the development have not been disclosed.

Triple Five did not return a call seeking comment, and Wanda's representatives in Beijing didn't respond to THR's requests.

Triple Five, controlled by the Ghermezian family and based in Alberta, Canada, is best known as the developer of Mall of America. The company's plans for the Beverly Hills site are not yet known. However the company proceeds, it is expected to inherit the unprecedented $60 million development fee Wanda promised to pay the city of Los Angeles. 

The high-profile Hollywood real estate disposal follows Wanda's downsizing of its stake in AMC Entertainment, North America's largest cinema chain, earlier this month.

Just two years ago, Wang was boasting of plans to buy up broad swaths of Hollywood, with the Beverly Hills site envisioned as the future U.S. headquarters of a global-spanning entertainment empire. But after a harsh crackdown by Chinese regulators, Wang was transformed overnight from aggressive buyer to desperate seller, and Wanda has since offloaded tens of billions of dollars' worth of assets within China and around the world.

The sale of Wang's coveted Beverly Hills project likely comes as a particularly stinging stage in that ongoing reckoning, though.

Wanda bought the site, which sits along Santa Monica Boulevard on the lot adjacent to the Beverly Hilton Hotel, for $420 million in 2014. The company then fought hard to win the entitlement to build a $1.2 billion mixed-use development, which was to include 193 condos, a 134-room luxury hotel and high-end commercial offices for top brass. Wanda then still had to overcome bitter objections and lawsuits filed by Beny Alagem, owner of the Beverly Hilton, whom the company ultimately beat in court. 

But soon Wanda was facing far more serious obstacles back home in Beijing, as the company and other conglomerates came under fire from regulators for their high debt loads and lavish overseas dealmaking, which had come to be viewed as a threat to China's reputation and financial stability. 

Wanda's various other foreign asset disposals over the past year include the sales of a 17 percent stake in Spanish soccer team Atletico Madrid, two Australian real estate projects for $913 million and a high-profile London development for around $81 million. 

For a time, it appeared that Wang might be able to hang on to the Beverly Hills project, after potentially appeasing the powers that be in China with his swift efforts to reduce debt. (Sources close to the company had previously told THR that the tycoon was loathe to let it go, given all of the hurdles he had overcome.) But the offshore selling streak now shows no sign of abating anytime soon.

The group still owns a $900 million stake in Chicago's luxury Vista Tower, which will be the city's third-tallest skyscraper upon completion. Wanda's piece of Vista Tower has been for sale since last year, and one of CoStar's unnamed sources says Triple Five may be looking to take that property off Wanda's hands, as well.

Aside from its remaining 38 percent stake in AMC, Wanda's last major U.S. asset is Burbank-based film studio Legendary Entertainment. The studio, known for its big-budget tentpoles like Kong: Skull Island and Dwayne Johnson's Skyscraper, is not known to be for sale. But even if it were, few Hollywood insiders believe Wanda would be able to find a buyer to offer anywhere near the steep $3.5 billion it paid for Legendary in 2016.

Back in Beijing, Wang has said Wanda will refocus the company's "limited cash" on the business that made it a Chinese corporate giant — downtown commercial real estate development in the many cities across the Middle Kingdom that are still growing.

And although Wang has clearly abandoned his wild ambitions of buying his way into Tinseltown to build a Chinese entertainment giant to rival the Hollywood majors on the world stage, Wanda remains China's biggest cinema operator and one of the country's largest movie producers and distributors.